It is not known whether any embellishment by way of garden or grounds was enjoyed around the original tower, the fortified manor-house or the courtyard castle into which Arbuthnott House had grown by the middle of the XV11th century. It is certain however that between 1685 and 1690 the present formal garden on its very steep slope was designed, laid out and brought into life. About 100 years later a further and more extensive landscape plan was devised in which to set the house and garden. This plan was itself contemporary with the development of the whole of the landed estate in the late XV111th century to become the classical farmland and forestry pattern of the “improving lairds”.
The cultivated gardens extend to some 5 acres and are surrounded to the east and west by a wall and to the north by the house and its outbuildings and a further length of wall. The bottom of the steep south-westerly slope of the garden is fenced by iron railings in which there are two gates. Beyond these railings lies a wide grass walk which is divided from the haugh of the river bottom lands, by a manmade mill-lade derived from the river further upstream originally to drive the castle mill and which later became a designed ornamental boundary to the bottom of the garden.
Owing to the steepness of the slope on which the gardens were laid out the site was divided up by three main walks running horizontally across the contour of this slope and which were themselves connected by a series of diagonal connecting paths. Thus a pattern of paths was formed across and up and down the slope for the purely practical purpose of getting about the garden more easily and not to create any special symbol or design. All the paths at all angles and slopes are of grass and most of the intervening areas are cultivated while two larger areas serve as a lawn immediately below the house and as an orchard for fruit or hazel-nut trees further away from it. The greatest area of flat land within the garden consists of some two acres at the top of the slope accessed directly from the house or from the gravelled parking area at the front door. The cultivated land in this area echoes the XV11th century design of a French potager. The vegetables and soft fruit ground is contained within beds which are bound by herbaceous borders, rose-beds and long beds for cut flowers.
The garden-wall along its north length is faced with hand-made brick with apple, plum, cherry and similar fruit-trees nailed espalier to it. The wall also has backed on to it 50 yards of greenhouses on the south-side and the potting shed and other buildings for garden machinery at the back. The greenhouses are heated by a boiler within the potting shed. One building remains that is contemporary with the original layout of the garden. It is in the north-west corner and is a XV11th century garden house later extended to be a bothy and now used as a tool-shed and apple-store.
The whole creation of the walled garden owes its origin and design to XV11th century pattern and practice. It is for these attributes that it is well-known and it will be the intention and hope of later generations of owners of Arbuthnott House to sustain the gardens as they are. The late XV111th century proposal to lay out the estate in a grander manner included the construction of a new drive, with entrance gate and gate-houses off the main road, the planting of the drive-side with ornamental trees and shrubs and the establishment of an avenue of hardwood trees westward beyond the rising grass lawns at the front of the house to become a notable vista from that position. Abercrombie’s 1792 plan further envisaged the XV11th garden being moved away to the east into the deer park but this was never achieved.